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Gore Warms Up

May 4, 2006, Los Angeles Times

WHEN Al Gore lost the presidency in a disputed election, it hurt — more than he ever was willing to show, more perhaps than he could show. He told his friends and supporters that it was “liberating” to be out of politics. Privately, he expressed his feelings sparingly: “It was a difficult blow … ”

It was his wife, Tipper, who suggested a palliative. Dig out the old slide show, she told him, and get back on the road. It was the one thing he always felt passionate about: his solo crusade as an eco-Cassandra — started long before he entered politics — to warn about the growing dangers of global warming.

Gore’s quest is the subject of a new documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which opens here on May 24. His almost-professorial plea to save the planet finds him center stage once again. The straightforward but quietly devastating film is a long way from Michael Moore, and the issue it raises isn’t in the forefront of the public’s concerns, but many expect it to have a significant effect on the public consciousness.

Meanwhile, some of Hollywood’s top politicos have been lobbying him privately to run for president in 2008, raising the tantalizing possibility of a Clinton-Gore showdown. For the record Gore, 58, says he’s not interested — at least not at the moment.

Regardless of whether he enters the race, or closes the door to politics forever, the former vice president has clearly found an issue that gives him purpose like no other. Audiences may well walk out of theaters not only compelled to do something about the environment but impressed by a Gore they’ve rarely seen. Onstage, and in the documentary, he displays a side of himself that never came across during his presidential race: affable, funny, passionate and — at times — vulnerable.

“It’s hard to describe it in a way that doesn’t sound excessive, but the issue of global warming is something that’s always with me,” he said recently over breakfast at the Regency Hotel in New York City. “You feel like you are entrusted with a very important message that you have to deliver.”